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Porthoustock

The Wreck of the SS Mohegan off The Manacles, near Porthoustock, 1898

NumberHESFM:1977.486

Postcard showing the wreck of SS Mohegan off The Manacles. Posted to Miss Moseley, 78, Gerrard Street, Lozells, Birmingham, from Rhoda. Bound for New York, the Atlantic Transport Line's SS Mohegan sailed from Tilbury Docks on 13th October 1898. She was carrying passengers, crew, cattlemen and 1,286 tons of spirits, beer, and antimony. She sailed down the English Channel, keeping close to the coast as she passed Cornwall, but took the wrong bearing. This was noticed by the Coverack coastguard, which attempted to signal to her with warning rockets. The Mohegan, however maintained her course. James Hill, coxswain of the Porthoustock lifeboat saw the ship heading at full speed towards the Manacle Rocks and called his crew. The crew of the Mohegan were finally alerted to the danger, either by signals from shore or by the 'old Manacle bell' from the buoy, and the engines were stopped at 6:50 pm. The ship ran onto the Manacles, embedding the rudder into the rock and tearing the hull open. Dinner was being served at the time and with the loss of power the passengers made their way onto the deck, where attempts were made to launch the lifeboats. Captain Griffith had ordered the fitting of a high second rail inboard of the lifeboats to prevent their being rushed in the event of an emergency, but this now hampered the launching of the boats. Further problems were encountered when the ship listed to port then heavily to starboard. Only two lifeboats were launched, of which one was virtually swamped and the other capsized. The ship rolled and sank 12 minutes after hitting the rocks with the loss of 107 lives. Captain Griffith, Assistant Engineer William Kinley and all of the officers went down with the ship. Only her funnel and four masts remained above water. The Porthoustock lifeboat Charlotte was launched in 30 minutes and rescued most of the survivors from the wreck and the water, 44 people were saved by the attending lifeboats. Many of the recovered bodies were buried in a mass grave in St Keverne churchyard, which was given a memorial stained glass window by the Atlantic Transport Line. The remaining bodies were sent to London for burial, whilst eight were shipped to New York on the Mohegan’s sister ship Menominee.